Tuesday, June 21, 2011

24 Hour Embrace (after Young Sun Han)

On Father's Day, conceptual artist Brian Feldman vowed that he would hug his father for 24 hours straight. “24 Hour Embrace” was first performed by artist Young Sun Han at Swimming Pool Project Space in Chicago, Illinois on December 31, 2008. 24 Hour Embrace (after Young Sun Han)” marked the first time that Young Sun Han had granted permission to re-perform this piece, as well as the first time that Brian Feldman had re-performed another artist’s work.

I arrived at Orange Ave Gym (1616 North Orange Avenue) just before midnight on the eve of Father's Day. Brian was a nervous spinning dervish. He kept knocking over his "Best of Orlando" award plaques as he adjusted them. He coached volunteers David Mooney and Christin Carlow on admission prices and the media press comp list. I was thankful that I was on that list. Admission was $10 for an all day wristband. Christin slipped the wristband snugly around my wrist. I asked where the boxing ring was and she directed me to a cavernous back room to the left. When I entered the back gym, Brian's dad Edward was getting changed by a locker. He asked me to shoot several photos on his iPhone when he and Brian first embraced.

This was going to be one of Brian's last major projects of 2011. I felt a sense of urgency and wanted to fully document this piece. I considered doing 12 to 24 sketches, staying with Brian and his dad through the whole embrace. After talking to Terry, I altered my plan, deciding to just sketch the beginning and end of the hug. As I was filling my watercolor brushes with water in the bathroom, Brian and his father entered the ring. Edward opened his arms and said, "I love you Brian." and the hug began.

The event rules stated that I could enter the ring at anytime. I took off my boots and crawled under the ropes. I set up my stool and leaned back in the corner. Brian and his dad shifted their weight leaning back and forth into each other. They twisted and rotated always searching for a new more comfortable angle. David shouted, "Good night!" and soon Al Pergande came in and shot some digital photos. Orlando Live had a video camera set up to record all 24 hours. Two videographers shot cutaway shots constantly during the first hour. Halfway into my first sketch I was alone with father and son. One of the rules was, "No talking inside the ring." The embrace continued in silence.

I began my second sketch around 8pm on Father's Day. Brian looked green and exhausted, relying of his father's blocky solid stance for support. Omar Delarosa and his mom Virginia Brown sat and watched for a while. Then they crawled into the ring and embraced for perhaps 15 minutes before leaving. In the final hours, a crowd began to gather. A rowdy young man put on some boxing gloves and danced around the ring like a gorilla to his girlfriend's delight. His antics actually caused Brian to laugh. A freelance photographer shot endlessly. With my second sketch finished, I exited the ring and laced up my boots. I didn't need to see them exit the ring. The drama was not in the smattering of applause but in the long tedious moments of pain and reflection that happened when there was no audience. I was a proud witness.

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